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‘All I heard was boom, boom, boom’ - Co-defendant says he was hiding nearby, heard shot that killed Dixon
Cruz testifies he wants to 'tell the truth,' wants 'second chance'
Brayan Omar Cruz.jpg
Brayan Omar Cruz

Brayan Cruz was hiding under a shed when he heard Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon take a fatal bullet July 7, 2019.

The now 19-year-old said he had heard the commands from the deputy to Hector Garcia-Solis to show his hands.

“It got quiet for a few seconds, and all I heard was boom, boom, boom,” he said.

The murder trial for defendants Garcia-Solis, 19, London Clements, 18, and Eric Velazquez, 19, continued Thursday, June 24, before Superior Court Judge Jason Deal. Cruz had his case severed in May from the others.

Garcia-Solis was accused of firing multiple rounds with one shot hitting Dixon. 

Law enforcement officials have testified intermittently since the beginning of the trial Tuesday, June 22, as the jury has heard from businesses and people affected by the alleged burglaries in the indictment prosecutors say led up to the fatal shooting.

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Brayan Omar Cruz is arraigned during an initial appearance before a judge Tuesday, July 9, 2019, on camera from the Hall County Jail. Cruz is a suspect in the shooting death of Hall County Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon. - photo by Scott Rogers

The jury heard details Thursday about an alleged burglary at the Double Deuce Pawn and Gun on Shallowford Road from Gainesville Police investigator Brad Raper. Gainesville Police said at least 25 firearms were stolen in the early morning hours of July 6, 2019.

An Oakwood Police investigator testified Wednesday, June 23, that two crossbows were taken July 6, 2019, from Swap and Trade Pawn on Atlanta Highway and were discovered days later on a Harmony Church Road farm along with other stolen firearms.

Cruz took the stand Thursday afternoon for roughly two hours of questioning by Assistant District Attorney Harold Buckler and cross-examination by each of his co-defendants’ attorneys.

Cruz said Velazquez and Garcia-Solis told him how they had obtained some firearms and how they committed the burglary at the Oakwood pawn shop.

Cruz said he talked with Garcia-Solis about “hitting a lick” — a slang phrase for a robbery or burglary — and that Clements was also interested.

“We didn’t have a plan. … We were just going to ride around and see whatever we could hit a lick on,” Cruz said.

The indictment alleges that the four defendants gathered July 7, 2019, and traveled together in a stolen vehicle with stolen guns, wearing masks, gloves and other clothing to conceal their identities.

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Assistant public defender Matt Cavedon, right, and client Hector Garcia-Solis talk Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in Hall County Superior Court during the murder trial concerning the death of Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicolas Dixon - photo by Scott Rogers

But a pair of Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigators had placed tracking devices on the stolen car, according to earlier testimony in the trial. Dixon was one of the officers on the night shift that saw the car moving and eventually chased after it, according to authorities.

Cruz said he was panicking and telling the group to pull over, but the men kept going while running red lights and striking mailboxes. After the car hit a pole, Cruz said the group ran and jumped fences.

“So at some point you stop jumping fences?” Buckler asked.

“Yeah,” Cruz said.

“How come?”

“Because it wasn’t a fence to jump. It was a fence on the side of a house. Like I said, Eric jumped it, and I hadn’t had a chance to jump it because I (had) seen a flashlight coming my way. So I hid under the shed.”

Cruz said he heard Dixon give Garcia-Solis instructions to show his hands, though Cruz didn’t hear anything from Garcia-Solis before the gunshots.

On cross-examination, Cruz told Garcia-Solis’ defense attorney Rob McNeill he couldn’t remember any conversation between the men about what they would do if they were encountered by police.

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Hall County Sheriff's Office Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon. - photo by Hall County Sheriff's Office

McNeill asked him why he didn’t stop, and Cruz said he and the other men were scared

“So you changed your mind about wanting to turn yourself in at that point?” McNeill asked.

“Yeah, I just got off probation that June and I was 17, so I knew I was going to go to the county, so I just ran,” Cruz said. “I was terrified.”

Cruz said he stayed under the shed for hours, hearing helicopters flying overhead and officers swarming the area after the shooting.

Officers spotted Cruz in the morning after the shooting, telling him at gunpoint to come out from his hiding place, Cruz said. 

Cruz agreed with McNeill’s question that the actions that night were the “worst decisions you’ve ever made in your life.”

“But no matter how bad they were, you had no intention to hurt anyone, did you?” McNeill asked, and Cruz agreed.Velazquez’s attorney Jason Wilson asked about Cruz’s decision to testify, which he said was made after he got an attorney so he could “tell the truth, to get a deal.”

“What do you think you would want by doing this?” Wilson asked.

“A second chance,” Cruz said.

“A second chance? OK, What do you mean ‘a second chance?’”

“A second chance to do better, become a better man.”

“And that second chance, does that involve not going to prison for the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know.”

Wilson asked him why Cruz was crying earlier, and Cruz said it was because he really cared for Garcia-Solis.

Velazquez’s attorney followed a line of questioning that implied that the group’s talk of committing crimes might be more blustering than actual planning.

During defense attorney Dan Sammons’ cross-examination, Cruz said he couldn’t see Clements while running from the car.

Sammons also focused on inconsistencies in Cruz’s statements to law enforcement.

The jury stopped hearing evidence around 4:30 p.m. Thursday and will return Friday, June 25.

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